Civil rights news rests for no man or woman.  Last week, it looked like this:

Shield Law Likely to Pass – New York Times

Senator Charles Schumer said last week that it was “very likely” the Senate would pass a shield law protecting journalists this year. Congress has long debated passing a shield bill for journalists, and concerns about the Justice Department’s overzealous investigation of the Associated Press as part of a leak investigation last year may provide the impetus for passage of a bill.  Schumer said the bill would defined “journalists” widely, but would exclude those who have never been paid for their articles.  The Justice Department issued new guidelines for investigating leaks last month, but Schumer maintains that they are weaker than the proposed bill.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination Test Reconsidered – SCOTUSBlog

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit called for new legal briefs on the standard of review to be applied to cases concerning bans on gay marriage.  The Ninth Circuit’s January ruling in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories stated that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation must be tested by “heightened scrutiny” – a more demanding standard than most courts have applied to that issue.  That ruling convinced state officials in Nevada that they could no longer defend the state ban.  Were the Ninth Circuit to revise the standard of review, though, those officials might think differently.  The Ninth Circuit will vote on the question after the two sides’ further briefing, which is due by April 17.

Obama’s New NSA Plan a Mixed Bag – LA Times

President Obama announced a new plan for the NSA that would significantly curb its authority while also granting the agency access to millions of cell phone records it currently does not have. The plan would require the NSA to cease collecting and storing for five years records of virtually all land-line telephone calls in the U.S., as it currently does.  Instead, all telephone companies would be required to keep call records for 18 months.  Further, the NSA would be required to seek judicial approval for each requested search of the records, which is not currently required.

The NSA stands to benefit in at least one way from the plan, which would allow the agency access to cell phone records – a privilege it does not currently have.  Around 70 percent of calls in the U.S. are made on cell phones, meaning the NSA would have significantly expanded access to records under Obama’s proposal.